Oiled Wildlife Care Network

Photo: oiled coot on intake
Oiled coot

Effects of Oil on Birds

Birds use their bills to adjust their feathers, called preening. They are doing this to move the feathers so they overlap and lock together like a zipper to form a waterproof layer, which traps air beneath and keeps the birds dry and warm when they are in the water. When oil gets on their feathers, it prevents the feathers from zipping together, causing the birds lose their waterproofing. This means that water can get through to their skin and they will become cold, or hypothermic. They also may not float very well in the water and may not be able to fly or dive for food.

photo: northern fulmarBirds may ingest oil while they are preening or eating prey with oil on it, which can harm their internal organs.

To see a video about waterproofing in birds and to learn other facts about oiled birds, please visit International Bird Rescue's web page.

To learn more about how oil affects birds, please go to the OWCN’s page on oiled wildlife.

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